A climate for coalPublished by MAC on 2013-11-17
Source: Statement, IPS, Mining.com, Reuters, Guardian (2013-11-19)
The 19th Conference of Parties (COP-19) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland, seems to have continued the joint themes, of delivering less while being more dominated by corporations (& coal).
Poland, as the hosting Government, is the world's ninth-biggest coal producer. Unsurprisingly COP-19 may be the most coal friendly meeting yet. Confusingly, Poland actively facilitated a parallel International Coal and Climate Summit. That conference has been promoting so-called "clean coal" as a "climate solution".
And, according to a recent report, this growth in the world's dirtiest fossil fuel is being financed by some major high street banks.
Poland hosts two very different climate change summits this weekpoh
17 November 2013
As of Monday, Poland will be host to two climate change summits: One organized by the United Nations and the other by the World Coal Association.
The two-day International Coal and Climate Summit in Warsaw is looking to improve coal's reputation by focusing on clean coal technology.
The summit will feature some of the world's largest coal companies, senior policy-makers, business leaders, academics and NGO representatives, gathered to discuss the role of coal in the global economy, in the context of the climate change agenda.
Poland's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Janusz Piechociński will open the event at the Ministry of Economy.
Meanwhile, UN climate talks will head into their second and final week in the country.
Environmentalist see this double-booking as a distraction from climate change discussions.
In an open letter to Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Greenpeace wrote:
"It is outrageous that the World Coal Summit... will take place at the beginning of the second week of the climate negotiations... We would not like events promoting the most polluting of industries to become associated with solving climate change. While we recognize that the focus of the Coal and Climate Summit is so-called "clean coal", in our view this ranks among the most desperate of myths spun by the coal industry in a frantic bid to survive."
Figueres responded, telling Reuters that she would "speak to the coal industry to show them that they can and must immediately deploy policies and technologies to lower their industry's carbon footprint more swiftly and urgently."
The involvement of Poland's politicians in the World Coal Association summit is not surprising. The country was the world's 10th biggest producer of electricity from coal and peat in 2011, AFP reports. In 2012 Poland was the world's ninth-biggest coal producer.
'Clean up your act,' UN climate chief urges coal industry
Alister Doyle and Susanna Twidale
WARSAW - The U.N. climate chief urged a radical clean-up of the coal industry on Monday to help limit global warming, at an industry meeting in Warsaw condemned by environmentalists as a distraction from the nearby U.N. climate change conference.
Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N.'s Climate Change Secretariat, told the coal summit that the industry had to change "rapidly and dramatically" to limit high pollution and carbon emissions, including in heavily coal-dependent Poland.
She urged the industry to "leave most existing reserves in the ground", to shut inefficient plants and to capture and bury all emissions of carbon dioxide from coal-fired plants, a technology that has proved too costly so far for wide use.
As she did so, Greenpeace activists scaled the Polish Economy Ministry, hosting the coal summit, and unfurled a 15-metre (50 foot) banner asking: "Who rules the world? Fossil industry or the people?"
An international panel of climate scientists says fossil fuel use is extremely likely to be the main cause of a sharp rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution that is now changing the climate.
A group of 27 leading climate scientists working with the panel's data said in Warsaw that there were 3.8 trillion tons of carbon dioxide trapped in the world's fossil reserves, about 60 percent of it in coal.
They said 1 trillion tons would suffice to push the post-industrial temperature rise past 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), set by governments as a ceiling to avoid rising sea levels as well as worsening heatwaves, droughts and floods.
'Move beyond the rhetoric'
The World Coal Association (WCA), co-hosting the conference with the Polish government, says the world cannot abandon coal, which generates about 41 percent of world electricity and is likely to overtake oil as the main source of energy by 2020.
"We want to move beyond the emotional rhetoric, and focus on what we can all do in practical terms," said Milton Catelin, chief executive of the WCA. He said the industry meeting was a "constructive contribution" to the U.N. climate talks.
Environmentalists condemned the summit as a deliberate distraction from the talks involving almost 200 nations at a soccer stadium nearby, which is working on the outlines of a deal meant to be agreed in 2015 to slow climate change.
Poland produces about 90 percent of its electricity from coal and is among the European Union nations most reluctant to implement deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020.
"The summit can develop clear signals that coal is an important component of climate policy," Polish deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechociski told the start of the two-day coal meeting.
Worldwide, there are plans for almost 1,200 coal-fired power plants to be built, according to the World Resources Institute think-tank.
Developing world need
Godfrey Gomwe, chief executive of Anglo American Thermal Coal, said coal was vital to help 1.3 billion people with no access to electricity in developing nations to escape poverty.
"A life without access to modern energy is a life lived in poverty," he told the coal summit.
U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern said broad coal use was "not going to change overnight", adding: "The most important technology which can provide a longer-range future for coal in a low-carbon world is CCS (carbon capture and storage)."
The 27 climate scientists said CCS was the only way for the world to limit a rise in temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius while still using coal.
They said that renewable energies such as wind and solar power, usually more expensive than coal, were far more competitive if governments factored in the damage to health and to the environment caused by fumes from coal-fired plants.
The World Bank and European Investment Bank have both decided to curb lending to most coal-fired power projects, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is expected to drastically reduce its involvement.
Some institutional investors are also acting. The Church of Sweden, for instance, will not invest in firms that get more than 5 percent of their turnover from prospecting for or developing coal.
UN Climate Chief Tells Coal Industry ‘Leave It in the Ground'
Environmental News Service (ENS)
19 November 2013
WARSAW, Poland - "The coal industry can and must radically transform and diversify to avoid the worst impacts of climate change," the United Nations' top climate official told the CEOs of major coal companies Monday in Warsaw.
Christiana Figueres told executives of world's largest coal producing companies, senior policy makers, business leaders and academics, "Let me be clear from the outset that my joining you today is neither a tacit approval of coal use, nor is it a call for the immediate disappearance of coal. But I am here to say that coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone's sake."
Figueres serves as executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is holding its annual climate change negotiations in Warsaw. There are now 195 States Parties to the Convention and 192 Parties to its Kyoto Protocol, which limits the greenhouse gas emissions of several dozen industrialized countries and expires in 2020.
The question of what happens beyond 2020 was answered by Parties at climate talks in Durban, South Africa in 2011.
There governments agreed to deliver a new and universal "greenhouse gas reduction protocol, legal instrument or other outcome with legal force" by 2015 for the period beyond 2020.
The negotiations in Warsaw this year and in Lima, Peru in 2014 are supposed to lay the foundation for universal adoption of a new legally-binding agreement in Paris in 2015.
Speaking at the International Coal and Climate Summit, organized by the Polish government and the World Coal Association, Figueres urged the coal industry to honestly assess the financial risks of business as usual, to anticipate increasing regulation, growing finance restrictions and diminishing public acceptance and to leverage technology to reduce emissions immediately across the entire chain of coal output.
"The coal industry has the opportunity to be part of the worldwide climate solution by responding proactively to the current paradigm shift," said Figueres.
She called on the coal industry to begin this transition by closing all existing subcritical plants.
These are the least efficient coal-fired power plants, which emit more than 900 grams of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour. Some experts say that would mean closing about three quarters of operational coal-fired power plants around the world, some 1.3 million subcritical plants.
The vast majority of installed plants still use subcritical steam conditions, and cannot reach performance levels of state of the art technology. In fact, the total capacity of installed subcritical coal‐fired power plants reached a record high over the last five years, according to a 2012 report from the International Energy Agency.
Figueres urged the coal industry to implement safe carbon capture, use and storage systems on all new plants, even the most efficient, and to "leave most existing reserves in the ground."
"These are not marginal or trivial changes, these are transformations that go to the core of the coal industry, and many will say it simply cannot be done," said Figueres. "But the phrase ‘where there's a will, there's a way' is tantamount to human history because will precedes innovation, and innovation precedes transformation," she said.
Demonstrators from Friends of the Earth Europe and Youth Friends of the Earth Europe gathered outside the building to make the point that there is no such thing as clean coal. They and many other environmental groups have signed the "People's Declaration on Coal," demanding an end to all new coal projects and for the United Nations to get coal out of the climate talks.
Godfrey Gomwe, chair of the World Coal Association's Energy and Climate Committee and chief executive of Anglo American Thermal Coal, responded, saying that the Warsaw Conference of Parties, known as COP19, "is an important step towards what we all hope will be a comprehensive climate agreement in Paris in 2015."
"The urgency of acting on climate change was highlighted by the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on climate science this September," saidd Gomwe. "That report highlighted the urgent need to limit emissions of carbon dioxide if we are to limit global temperature rises below 2 degrees. It highlights the need to ensure that we do reach a new agreement in Paris in 2015."
Referring to the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, which aims to balance the objectives of addressing climate change and eradicating poverty in the developing world, Gomwe said, "These issues are inextricably linked. The world's least developed countries need access to low cost energy, but they are also the most vulnerable to the impacts of policies aimed at reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions."
Gomwe called on the international community to recognize that much of the developing world is turning to coal to fuel development.
"We need to help them do that in the cleanest way possible," he said. "We must, and we can, reduce emissions from burning coal for electricity."
"The technology exists to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from coal. Modern, high efficiency, low emission coal fired power plants emit significantly less carbon dioxide than older, less efficient plants," said Gomwe. "A one percent improvement in efficiency results in a two to three percent reduction in CO2 emissions."
"If we were to raise the global average efficiency of coal plants from its current average of 33 percent up to 40 percent we could reduce global carbon emissions by more than two gigatonnes - that's the equivalent of running the Kyoto Protocol three times over," he exclaimed.
"Modern highly efficient plants are also a key step towards near zero emissions from coal because they can be built ready for the deployment of carbon capture and storage technology," Gomwe said.
Figueres also called on the industry to diversity its portfolio beyond coal, noting that the bottom line for the atmosphere is that "most existing coal reserves will have to stay in the ground."
"Some major oil, gas and energy technology companies are already investing in renewables, and I urge those of you who have not yet started to do this to join them," she said. "By diversifying your portfolio beyond coal, you too can produce clean energy that reduces pollution, enhances public health, increases energy security, and creates new jobs."
Losses from extreme weather rise to $200 billion a year over past decade
18 November 2013
By Nina Chestney
WARSAW - Global economic losses caused by extreme weather events have risen to nearly $200 billion a year over the last decade and look set to increase further as climate change worsens, a report by the World Bank showed on Monday.
A United Nations' panel of scientists has warned that floods, droughts and storms are likely to become more severe over the next century as greenhouse gas emissions warm the world's climate.
"Economic losses are rising - from $50 billion each year in the 1980s to just under $200 billion each year in the last decade and about three quarters of those losses are a result of extreme weather," said Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development.
"While you cannot connect any single weather event to climate change, scientists have warned that extreme weather events will increase in intensity if climate change is left unchecked."
Reinsurance company Munich Re has estimated total reported losses from disasters were $3.8 trillion from 1980 to 2012, attributing 74 percent of those to extreme weather.
More than 3,900 people have been killed in Typhoon Haiyan which hit the Philippines, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded.
The typhoon threw a spotlight on the impact of climate change and coincided with the start of November 11-22 talks in Warsaw, Poland, where governments are trying to draw up a plans to slow its effects.
Emerging Economies at Risk
Many nations have said the typhoon matched trends towards extreme weather and was an example to spur action in Warsaw, which is meant to lay down the outlines of a global deal in 2015 that will enter into force from 2020.
But the U.N. panel of climate scientists says it has only "low confidence" that human emissions have already contributed to the intensity of cyclones, which include typhoons and hurricanes, since 1950.
As part of the talks, governments are discussing a mechanism to help poorer countries cope with losses and damage from climate change.
Although weather-related disasters can affect all countries, the most severe economic and human losses are expected in rapidly growing countries, such as those in Asia, which are building their economies in areas vulnerable to floods, droughts and extreme temperatures, the World Bank said.
The average impact of disasters on such countries equalled 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 2001 to 2006 - ten times higher than the average for high-income countries, the World Bank said.
But climate impacts will especially cripple poorer countries. Hurricane Tomas in 2010, for example, devastated St Lucia and caused losses of 43 percent of GDP.
To help avoid unmanageable future costs, governments should focus on making their countries more resilient to disasters, even though that might require up-front investment, it added. (Editing by Louise Heavens)
The report can be downloaded at: Building Resilience: Integrating Climate and Disaster Risk into Development
King Coal's Climate Challenge
Andrew Steer (President and CEO of the World Resources Institute)
19 November 2013
WASHINGTON, DC - Coal is emerging as a major topic of conversation at the United Nations climate-change negotiations currently taking place in Warsaw - and rightly so. Indeed, it is a discussion that the world needs to have.
The latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change conclude that we are quickly using up our carbon "budget" - the amount of carbon that we can afford to emit while still having a good chance of limiting global warming to 2º Celsius. According to the IPCC, keeping the global temperature increase from pre-industrial levels below this threshold - the recognized tipping point beyond which climate change is likely to get seriously out of control - requires that the world emit only about 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon (GtC). More than half of this amount was already emitted by 2011. Unless we shift away from carbon-intensive behavior, the remaining budget will run out in roughly three decades.
When it comes to tolerable CO2 emissions, coal is the budget buster. Just this week, a group of 27 prominent scientists, representing all major continents, issued a joint statement that explains that burning all known fossil-fuel reserves would produce about 3,800 gigatonnes of CO2, or 1,053 GtC, with coal alone accounting for more than half. Simply put, if the world burns its known coal reserves using current technologies, it is likely to push global temperature rise far beyond 2ºC.
Many governments and financial institutions recognize this. In recent months, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, and the United States Export-Import Bank have introduced policies that restrict financing of new coal-fired power plants unless they can capture and store their CO2 emissions. Five Nordic countries have joined the US Treasury in ending public financing of new coal-fired power plants overseas, and others may soon follow suit. And this fall, the US Environmental Protection Agency proposed emissions standards for new power plants that would rule out conventional coal power - an important step that would cut carbon pollution and drive innovation.
Likewise, China, concerned about the serious health costs linked to burning coal, is prohibiting new coal capacity in three coastal provinces under its newly adopted action plan on air pollution. The Chinese authorities have also introduced policies to reduce the proportion of coal in the country's overall energy mix.
Against this backdrop, the World Coal Association (WCA) is meeting this week, also in Warsaw - in fact, just across the river from where negotiators are trying to forge the building blocks of a global climate agreement by 2015.
The WCA is calling for the use of "high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-combustion technologies" to lower greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired power plants around the world. But this approach would still consume too much of the CO2 budget. Even the most modern and advanced conventional coal-fired power plants emit over 15 times more CO2 per unit of electricity than renewable energy systems, and more than twice the amount of efficient gas-fired power stations.
And yet coal power is still going strong globally. The World Resources Institute estimates that there are close to 1,200 proposed coal-fired power projects around the world, with a total installed capacity of more than 1,400 gigawatts. If built, the world would commit a large share of the remaining carbon budget to high-carbon infrastructure with a lifespan of 40-50 years.
According to the International Energy Agency, the current trend in coal use is in line with a scenario that would lead to a 6ºC temperature rise. This is a future that would radically and irreversibly change life on earth as we know it.
This is why the OECD Secretary General has suggested that it is time for a moratorium on the construction of conventional coal-fired power plants. Governments have far more cost-effective electricity-generation technologies at their disposal. Renewable energies like solar and wind are already competitive with fossil fuels in many parts of the world, and they can be scaled up rapidly.
Moreover, most economic models do not account for the externalities related to coal and carbon pollution. For example, a recent report by Trucost estimates that coal-fired power generation worldwide may be responsible for around $1 trillion of damage due to climate change and air pollution. Many coal-fired power plants would be uncompetitive if they were required to internalize these costs.
Of course, coal continues to offer millions of people a reliable source of electricity - and the transition to low-carbon technologies will not happen overnight. We need to expand access to these technologies rapidly, while helping people whose livelihoods depend on the coal industry. While we need to be passionate about climate change, we must also be pragmatic about how we address it.
But so must the coal industry. Participants at the WCA meeting this week should commit to additional measures that will help ensure that emissions are kept within safe limits. A moratorium on conventional coal plants would be a smart place to start. That would help to show the world that the coal industry truly understands the scientific implications of current energy-use patterns, and that it is willing to assume more responsibility for combating climate change.
We need people on both sides of the Vistula River to do their part to build a fair and ambitious universal climate agreement by 2015. Let's roll up our sleeves together and plot a viable pathway to a safe and effective low-carbon economy.
Civil Society Groups Walk Out of UN Climate Talks in Protest
Environmental News Service (ENS)
21 November 2013
WARSAW, Poland - Thirteen environmental and climate justice groups today withdrew from the UN climate change negotiations in Warsaw to protest what they see as lack of action from governments to solve the climate crisis.
Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, Oxfam, 350.org and WWF are among the groups that walked out, along with climate justice groups from Africa, Latin America and the Philippines and the International Trade Union Confederation. Over 800 UN-accredited observers left the Warsaw National Stadium in frustration.
They say that in Warsaw the developed countries have blocked meaningful progress on cutting emissions and providing finance and help for those harmed by climate change.
In a joint statement, the groups said, "The Warsaw Climate Conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing."
The frustrated groups relate their walkout to the plight of typhoon victims in the Philippines. Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan lashed the island nation earlier this month, killing more than 2,500 people and leaving 660,000 homeless.
"We have said we stand in solidarity with the millions impacted by Typhoon Haiyan, and with all climate impacted people. Our solidarity compels us to tell the truth about COP 19 - the Warsaw Climate Conference."
"The actions of many rich countries here in Warsaw are directly undermining the UNFCCC itself, which is an important multilateral process that must succeed if we are to fix the global climate crisis," the groups said.
With 195 governments as parties, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
The negotiations in Warsaw this year and in Lima, Peru in 2014 are supposed to lay the foundation for universal adoption of a new legally-binding agreement in Paris in 2015. World governments agreed to this plan at the 2011 UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
But in their statement today, the withdrawing groups said no progress is being made.
"Warsaw has not seen any increase in emission reductions nor increased support for adaptation before 2020 - on these things it has actually taken us backward. And a clear pathway to a comprehensive and fair agreement in Paris 2015 is missing," the groups state.
Lou Leonard, WWF vice president for climate change, said, "These negotiations matter - and that's why we're leaving. We've heard again and again from scientists about the urgency of addressing the climate threat, but those calls are not finding their way into these talks."
"Instead," said Leonard, "governments are having a political food fight, spending more time talking about political posturing and abstract principles than about protecting their people."
"This meeting was supposed to help bring down emissions and deliver support to vulnerable communities; instead countries like the U.S. brought almost nothing to the table despite increasing progress at home," he said.
Frustration increased when Japan announced in Warsaw that it declines to honor commitments previously made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as Canada has also done.
Australia's newly elected government is dismantling the carbon pricing system put in place by the previous government, and the groups say the Australians have "jeopardized" the integrity of the talks by failing to take the UN climate process seriously.
Friends of the Earth international climate campaigner Asad Rehman said, "Climate change is probably the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. It's staggering that so many developed nations would rather spend their time playing to vocal minorities at home rather than meet this global threat head on."
"We can already see the devastating impact that climate change is having, particularly in some of the world's poorest regions where people are least able to cope," said Rehman. "This Warsaw summit is achieving nothing to help protect these communities or to reduce global carbon pollution."
The groups were particularly offended by the participation of fossil fuel industries and corporations generally in the Warsaw meeting.
"The Warsaw Conference has put the interests of dirty energy industries over that of global citizens - with a ‘Coal & Climate Summit' being held in conjunction; corporate sponsorship from big polluters plastered all over the venue; and a Presidency (Poland) that is beholden to the coal and fracking industry," they stated.
"This week saw a ‘finance ministerial' with almost no actual finance," they said, "and loss and damage talks that have stalled because rich countries refuse to engage on the substance of an international mechanism."
The groups say that rather than sitting in Warsaw meeting rooms it is a better use of their time to focus on raising awareness in time for next year's negotiations in Lima.
Rehman said, "We must all do more in the months ahead to make the world wake up to the need for urgent action."
Leonard said, "Next year's meeting in Peru must get the world back on track to deliver a meaningful deal in Paris in 2015."
The organizations and social movements associated with the walkout are:
- Aksyon Klima Pilipinas
- Bolivian Platform on Climate Change
- Construyendo Puentes (Latin America)
- Friends of the Earth (Europe)
- Ibon International
- International Trade Union Confederation
- LDC Watch
- Oxfam International
- Pan African Climate Justice Alliance
- Peoples' Movement on Climate Change (Philippines)
Banking on Coal - Undermining our Climate
NGOs reveal top 20 international banks financing the coal mining industry
15 November 2013
Warsaw - Coal is the single greatest source of carbon emissions endangering our climate. Yet never before has so much coal been mined on the planet as today. Since 2000, global coal production has grown by 70% and has now reached a staggering 7.9 billion tons annually. And what's more, the industry is still expanding. Who on earth is financing the enormous production increases of the world's dirtiest fossil fuel?The study "Banking on Coal," published by the German environmental NGO urgewald, the Polish Green Network, the international NGO network BankTrack and the CEE Bankwatch Network answers this question. From 2005 to mid-2013, 89 commercial banks poured a total of 118 billion euro into the coal mining industry. The lion's share of finance - 71% - was, however, provided by only 20 banks. Together, these banks financed enormous coal mine expansions around the world.
The three banks at top of the list are Citi (€7.29 billion), Morgan Stanley (€7.23 billion) and Bank of America (€6.56 billion). Also among the top 20 are Swiss, German, Chinese, British, French and Japanese banks. The authors investigated commercial lending to and investment banking services for 70 coal mining companies, which collectively account for 52% of global coal production. "The report is based on months of research," explains Heffa Schücking, director of urgewald. "While most banks publish figures on their annual investments in renewables, they don't really want to talk about the coal dust spilling out of their portfolios."
The authors also analyzed their data according to the banks' countries of origin and found that financial institutions from only three countries - the US, UK and China - collectively account for 57% of coal mining finance. "It's mind-boggling," says Schücking, "to see that less than two dozen banks from a handful of countries are putting us on a highway to hell when it comes to climate change. Big banks already showed that they can mess up the real economy. Now we're seeing that they can also push our climate over the brink."
The research also shows that coal finance has increased tremendously over the past few years. Since 2005 - the year the Kyoto Protocol came into force - banks' financing for coal mining companies increased by 397%. "This is a real danger," says Kuba Gogolewski, of the CEE Bankwatch Network. "While policymakers are far too slow to regulate the mining and burning of coal, banks are speeding ahead with investments that are totally inconsistent with a stabilized climate."
The report also contrasts the investments of the top 20 banks with their own statements and policies on climate change. Yann Louvel of BankTrack, who analyzed these policies, comments: "It's as if banks have a split personality disorder." He points out that Bank of America claims to be "financing a low carbon economy"; Credit Suisse "cares for climate" and BNP Paribas thinks it is "combatting climate change." Louvel says: "Banks finally need to face up to the real-world impacts of their financing decisions. When they finance companies that blow up mountaintops or destroy jungles to extract coal, they have a responsibility for these impacts."
The "Banking on Coal" report also examines the "hot spots" of global coal production and the vastly destructive impacts that coal mining is having on India's last tiger forests, on indigenous communities in Colombia or on scarce water resources in South Africa. For each of the global "hot spots" of coal production, the report uncovers which financial institutions have played the lead role in financing the expansion of the industry.
Central Europe is one of the coal hot spots featured in the report, as Germany and Poland are among the world's major lignite producers. Together they account for almost 25% of the world's lignite production. "Poland, which is hosting the UN climate talks, relies heavily on coal, harming communities across the country. Private sector banks should help it transition to a cleaner economy instead of bankrolling strip mining and air pollution," says Anna Drążkiewicz of the Polish Green Network.
Yann Louvel of BankTrack concludes: "Banks must stop undermining our future by financing yesterday's fuel. We want them to quit coal and we want them to do it now."
The report is a sequel to the study "Bankrolling Climate Change" published in 2011 at COP17 in Durban, which examined banks' involvement in the entire coal industry, from coal mining to energy generation. This report focuses on the coal mining industry, but digs deeper to uncover the banks behind the mines.
Read the full report here.
Further information and interviews
Heffa Schücking, heffa[at]urgewald.de , Tel: +49 - 160-96761436
Yann Louvel, yann[at]banktrack.org, Tel: +33 - 688-907-868
Kuba Gogolewski, kuba.gogolewski[at]bankwatch.org , Tel: +48 - 721440119
Anna Drążkiewicz, annadrazkiewicz[at]zielonasiec.pl, Tel: +48 - 2 - 514 32 67 80
Concerns Over Role Of Corporations At Climate Crisis Talks
By Mantoe Phakathi
Inter Press Service
17 November 2013
As deliberations continue in earnest at the 19th United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Warsaw, negotiators from the Global South welcome a focus on financing adaptation - but reject a new emphasis on a role for the private sector.
Climate negotiations have now dragged on for almost 20 years. Talk of "fair, ambitious and binding" agreements to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming appears to be fading, to be replaced by proposals to turn to the private sector for loans and investment to support adaptation to climate change at what has been dubbed the "Corporate COP (Conference of Parties)".
Tosi Mpamu-Mpamu, a negotiator for the Democratic Republic of Congo and a former chair of the African Group of negotiators, sees an alarming change emerging in the approach to funding the response to climate change.
At the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, developed states pledged 30 billion dollars of new aid for climate finance for the developing world between 2010 and 2012, and a further 100 billion by 2020.
"Developed countries are now shifting the responsibility to provide funding to the private sector, a dangerous trend to these negotiations," said Mpamu-Mpamu. Other negotiators share Mpamu-Mpamu's concerns over the role transnational corporations are assuming at the conference.
"At a three-day conference prior to this COP, businesses spent two days explaining how they could make money out of climate change," said Rene Orellana, head of Bolivia's delegation.
And, said Pascone Sabido from the Corporate Europe Observatory, the corporations assuming prominence at the COP are also the biggest emitters of carbon. He criticized the U.N. for accepting sponsorship for COP19 from major polluters like steel giant ArcelorMittal and the Polish Energy Group (PGE), saying these companies were influencing the negotiations.
"You wouldn't ask Marlboro to sponsor a summit on lung cancer, so why is it acceptable for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change?" he said.
Rachel Tansey, researcher at the Malaysia-based NGO Environment and Economic Justice, says big business wants to see climate finance - public funding - directed towards projects that corporations can profit from. And the governments of the developed countries are listening.
"[Transport and energy giant] Alstom is lobbying for so-called "clean" coal, controversial technologies that allow them to continue profiting from burning fossil fuels, like carbon capture and storage, and for more nuclear power," said Tansey.
But COP19 president Marcin Kolorec said there was nothing wrong with inviting the private sector to participate in parallel meetings at the conference. He said industries have been given a chance to take part in the same way that non-governmental organizations are, adding that such dialogues have been a feature of the talks since the COPs started.
"We have to be transparent and inclusive," he told reporters, adding that the Warsaw talks were a build-up to a possible global agreement in 2015 in the French capital, Paris.
He said industries were given a chance to participate at the COP just like non-governmental organizations, adding that such dialogues have been part of the COP since it started.
He said there is no chance that industry will influence COP decisions because they are not part of the formal negotiations.
Swaziland's Emmanuel Dlamini, the chair of the Africa Group of negotiators, said that despite some risks, bringing business on board is not such a bad idea.
"For developed states to come up with the finance, they need to mobilize the business sector," Dlamini told IPS.
He echoed the COP president in underlining that business is not taking part in the actual negotiations. "But," he said, "there is the danger of the private sector influencing decisions through proposals they sell to their governments which could be brought into the COP negotiations."
For Dlamini, the main challenge is to clearly define climate finance. Since the Copenhagen conference, he said, a lot of aid to developing countries has been classified as climate assistance.
"Yes, there has been money flowing, but to what extent is it climate finance?" wondered Dlamini.
In Swaziland, for instance, he said, money coming from the European Union's Official Development Assistance for poverty alleviation is now considered climate finance. "We need a reliable fund for climate change like the GCF," said Dlamini.
Meena Raman, from the observer group Third World Network, says completing the setting up of the Green Climate Fund would be helpful because it is a grant fund that will directly benefit poor countries. Presently headquartered in South Korea, with operational funding of just seven million dollars, the Green Climate Fund does not as yet have a cent for projects.
"That's where developing countries are saying the 100 billion dollars should go to, a matter still under discussion," said Raman.
Coal industry says UN climate chief 'ignoring reality'
2 December 2013
It took a few days, but it surely came: the World Coal Association (WCA) has reacted to UN climate chief Christiana Figueres' call to the industry to stop mining and invest in efficient technologies, saying she is "ignoring reality."
In an interview with Responding to Climate Change, WCA's CEO Milton Catelin said Figueres' lack of expertise in the mining and energy sectors meant she doesn't get "some of the fundamentals about the energy sector."
He went onto saying that following her call would be like telling Figueres' home country -Costa Rica- that is not longer allowed to have access to electricity. "To suggest that you can close all subcritical [coal-fired] plants tomorrow totally ignores reality," Catelin added.
He said the world simply can't abandon the black combustible, which generates about 41% of world electricity, especially when studies suggest coal will overtake oil as the main source of energy by 2020.
However, coal miners around the world are being targeted by a mounting number of investors and global organizations. They are concerned with the greenhouse emissions the industry would generate if the nearly $8 trillion of known coal reserves are extracted in the near future.
According to the International Energy Agency, coal combustion generated 43% of all CO2 emissions in 2010, a figure that is expected to gradually rise between now and 2035.
World Coal: UN climate chief Figueres ‘ignoring reality'
By Sophie Yeo
2 December 2013
The head of the World Coal Association (WCA) has accused UN climate chief Christiana Figueres of ‘ignoring reality', following her call to the coal industry to invest in more efficient technologies.
In an interview World Coal chief executive Milton Catelin told RTCC that Figueres' lack of expertise in the mining and energy sectors meant she "misses some of the fundamentals about the energy sector".
He was responding to a speech Figueres made to a ‘Climate and Coal Summit' on the sidelines of UN negotiations in Warsaw two weeks ago, where she told the audience that "coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone's sake."
Figueres called for the closure of all low-efficiency subcritical plants, a roll out of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and a collective decision to leave most coal reserves in the ground.
The UN climate chief was heavily criticised by green groups for attending the gathering, but her message does not seem to have gone down well with the coal investors and representatives inside.
Catelin equated Figueres' call for the closure of older coal power stations to telling her home country of Costa Rica it could no longer have access to electricity: "to suggest that you can close all subcritical [coal-fired] plants tomorrow totally ignores reality," he said.
"She comes from a perspective where the only challenge in the world today is global warming," he said. "I think what we say is there's more than one challenge - other things are almost as important or equally important, such as global poverty and the need to maintain economic development."
Meanwhile, he said, moves by Poland, Australia and Canada to push back against ambitious climate policies, reflected a "wall of reality".
"We're not denying there are negative aspects from the burning of coal, but the figures people talk about in terms of deaths from coal burning, you have to weigh those against what are the benefits of coal burning," he said.
The future of coal is a contentious issue. It offers cheap energy but is hugely polluting, and is the largest single contributor to global warming.
According to the International Energy Agency, 43% of all CO2 emissions from fuel combustion were produced by coal in 2010, a figure that is expected to rise between now and 2035.
Health concerns over burning coal are also rising. A recent study found that the pollution linked to coal use resulted in up to 115,000 premature deaths in India in 2011, with another study pointing to an extra 22,300 deaths across Europe.
And while the industry is growing, it is also feeling the squeeze from key sources of finance. In the past 12 months the USA, UK, World Bank and European Investment Bank have all announced plans to reduce or withdraw funding for new coal plants.
In a statement released on the same day as Figueres' address to the industry, a group of 27 scientists from across the world said that only power plants equipped with technology to capture and safely store greenhouse gas emissions would enable coal to become part of a low-carbon future.
Yet access to cheap energy remains elusive for parts of the planet. According to IEA data from 2009, only 75% of people in developing countries have access to electricity, a figure that drops to 42% in Africa.
Catelin argues the role of coal in offering a cheaper solution to national requirements cannot be ignored, deriding UN efforts to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix as "the politics of the warm inner glow".
"The west feels good about itself by saying we'll give you five hours [of energy] a day but it won't solve your poverty problem - it'll just make us feel good that we're doing something about it," he added.
And he says Figueres' address at the World Coal meeting needs to be the start of a longer and deeper engagement, if a proposed global emissions reduction treaty set to be signed in 2015 will work.
"We think you shouldn't set targets until you know how you're going to get there, otherwise they're just meaningless pieces of rhetoric," he said
"We think they should sit down and talk to major sectors involved in greenhouse gas emissions and talk to them about how to get there. You can set any target you want, but what's the point of setting a target that gives you a warm inner glow but doesn't achieve what you want to achieve?"